The Tesla Model S in Iceland: The First 7 Cars to Movers and Shakers

By · September 30, 2013

The First Tesla in Iceland

The first Model S already has 3,400 miles on it, and has given more than 60 test rides. (Northern Lights photo)

The first Tesla Model S landed in Reykjavik, Iceland several weeks ago, and is now in the hands of Gisli Gislason of Northern Lights Energy—the entrepreneur who’s also trying to install charging stations around this small island nation of 320,000 souls. Gislason has already given 60 test rides, and it’s definitely bearing fruit, even though some Icelanders are buying the car sight unseen.

Foreign Tallies Heating Up

Foreign sales aren't yet a major factor for Tesla Motors, but they could be. Fisker Automotive's Henrik Fisker thought he could sell 60 percent of his cars in Europe, and though that's not likely for Tesla anytime soon, Europe is just one of many major markets the company is opening up. (Japan and China are also big targets.)

Taking the First Tesla in Iceland for Test Rides

Gisli Gislason (right) with U.S. Ambassador to Iceland Luis Arreaga. The latter took a test ride and calls the Model S "an engineering marvel of enormous power, stealth, energy efficiency and beauty." (Northern Lights photo)

Tesla Norway, the company's first market in Europe (Iceland is right behind), had 100 advance orders by last Christmas. But that was just the beginning. According to the Motley Fool, "Between Sept. 1 and Sept. 9, Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) and its Model S not only outsold every electric vehicle in Norway, but every other car, period." By mid-September, 133 cars had been sold in Norway, and the company hopes to deliver as many as 1,000 to that EV-friendly country by the end of the year. It's not that far-fetched: EVs are already three percent of the Norwegian market.

The First Dozen Cars in Iceland

“We will deliver the first 12 Tesla Model S to Iceland in October and November,” Gislason told me. “The first seven cars sold in Iceland were bought by guys that had only read reviews on the Internet—before I got the first car to the island.” Of Gislason’s original list of 10 target buyers, seven signed on the dotted line.

Skuli Mogensen

Skuli Mogensen: Hands in many pies. ( Photo courtesy of Skuli Mogensen)

These guys, and they are all guys, represent Iceland’s moneyed brain trust. Here’s the list of the first seven early adopter Model S buyers:

  • Skuli Mogensen, one of the wealthiest men in Iceland, is owner of MP Bank, CEO of WOW Air (cheap flights from London to Reykjavik), a consultant to Redline Communications Group, the founder of Títan and one of the largest shareholders of Advania. He has extensive business dealings in Scandinavia and internationally.
  • Ragnar Agnarsson, owner of Saga Film, the leading independent production company in Iceland (TV, commercials and feature films). It produces Icelandic versions of X Factor, The Bachelor, and others, as well as Icelandic shows such as Design For…, Dance Dance Dance and The Question Bomb.
  • Fridrik Palsson, owner of Hotel Ranga, a four-star luxury resort in South Iceland. “His Tesla Model S Signature arrives tomorrow,” Gislason said.
  • Heidar Mar Gudjonsson, an investor in and an owner of Vodafone, a big phone and Internet provider in Iceland. He is also the chairman of Eykon Energy, a new Icelandic company that is partnering with a Chinese state-owned concern to look for oil and minerals off the country’s Northeastern coast. “There is an influx of international capital and companies to the Arctic looking for opportunities,” he told the Financial Times. “It’s not just oil and gas; there are minerals, there are potential new shipping routes.”
  • Thormodur Jonsson, owner of Fiton Advertising Agency, one of the biggest and most successful in Iceland.
  • Hilmar Veigar Petursson, the CEO of CCP, a major multi-player video game developer. It was responsible for Odyssey and Retribution. The next game, Rubicon, due in November, “represents the defining moment when the scales of intergalactic power will shift irrevocably to players, the immortal capsuleers.”
  • Eythor Arnalds, entrepreneur, musician and president of the city counsel of Arborg in Iceland. The Harvard-educated Arnalds is CEO of Strokkur Energy, a founder of Vodaphone Iceland, and former singer with Miranda, among numerous others.

Test Drives, and 25 Sales by Christmas

Gislason told me, “The next five bought the Model S after test driving. We have driven the car more than 3,400 miles already. Our first order for Iceland was 50 cars, and we are hoping to get 25 before Christmas. If we manage to sell all 25, it will be the equivalent of selling 24,000 of them in the U.S., because our population is 320,000 compared to your 320 million.”

Of the test drivers, Gislason said that 90 percent “have told us that they will buy the car within three months, or as soon as they have sold their current car. So the future is bright.”

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